Kanter, KP and Burke Show Out as Knicks Cruise Past Suns

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Give Enes Kanter an inch and he’ll take a mile’s worth of space in your head. Devin Booker found that out last night as he let Kanter goad him into a second tech while his Suns were outhustled at home 107-85. After three games that saw us give up over 120 points, it was a great change of pace to see the team playing with some fire and demoralizing another squad. We can also expect this game to start the rumblings for a new starting point guard.

KANTER GOES OFF: With Phoenix missing their best defender in Tyson Chandler, Kanter was able to dominate. Greg Monroe is not known for his defense nor rebounding and couldn’t do anything with Kanter, who led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was active in rolling to the basket and got several easy layups and dunks. But his biggest play came with four minutes remaining in the third when he blocked Devin Booker. He let Booker know about it and the Suns guard, who was already was struggling on 4/12 shooting, shoved Kanter in frustration.

Booker had received a tech earlier in the game for a flagrant 1 on Tim Hardaway, who he pushed in the back on a fast break. The Kanter shove proved costly as Booker was tossed with his second tech. Without Booker, the Suns offense got even more anemic and the Knicks lead was 81-67 entering the fourth.

TREY BURKE BUILDS HIS CASE: There might be something to Trey Burke’s physically resembling the second coming of Allen Iverson. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, looking unstoppable at mid-range and getting to the basket. The pace picked up considerably with his floor presence and the Suns were prevented from the quick double-teams on KP and others we see when Jarrett Jack is in the lineup.

I’m not ready to jump the gun just yet on Burke starting. However, if he keeps this up for five more games, Coach Hornacek has a no-brainer of a decision to make.

 

QUIET BUT EFFECTIVE KP: Porzingis didn’t have a monster game, but the Unicorn was impactful on both ends. He shot an efficient 6/11 from the floor, prowled the paint with three blocks, and broke the game open in the third on a fast break dunk that made it 67-51. I’ve noticed that KP plays more relaxed when others have their offense going. I was impressed to see him quickly passing out to reset the offense when good post-up positioning wasn’t there.

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STARTERS GET IT DONE: Four starters hit double figures and everyone had monster plus-minus numbers: Lee +27, Jack +23, Kanter +22, Hardaway +19, and KP +15. The third quarter, where the Knicks outscored the Suns 28-18, essentially put the game out of reach.

THE ROAD TRIP ENDS: Going in, most of us believed this extended road trip would decide the season. That’s not quite the case since our 3-4 record keeps us in limbo. The playoffs are still within reach but so is a high draft pick. No matter which direction we go, my concern remains that are young guys (KP, Frank, Dotson etc.) continue to develop and not get stagnant at the expense to playing time for guys who aren’t in our long-term future.

The Knicks are back at MSG on Tuesday January 30 against the Nets.

The Art of Choking: Suns 107, Knicks 105

Give the Knicks some credit — you have to be very creative to keep finding ways to lose close games. Tonight, the Knicks failed to score over the last 2 minutes to blow a five-point lead and lose on a… you guessed it, a three-pointer from an open Devin Booker to remain winless at Madison Square Garden in 2017.

This game has sealed it for me. Let the young guys gain experience, see if Melo wants to stick around and bring on the tank for a top lottery pick.

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MELO TRIED: Carmelo Anthony will catch some heat for not scoring in the fourth and missing the game-winning three (was halfway down and rimmed out). But outside of his usual bonehead defensive lapses on the perimeter, he played the all-around game we want from him (31 points on 52% FG, 7 boards and 6 assists).

 

 

 


 

HERNANGOMEZ: Our rook had another strong performance. He made his first appearance in the third and had an immediate impact altering shots and scoring at the rim. He kept Tyson Chandler contained on the glass and finished with 6 points and 8 boards in 14 minutes. I feel his presence was missed in crunch time when he sat the last 3 minutes to put Porzingis back in.

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KP’s DISAPPEARING ACT: This is only his second game back so I won’t kill Porzingis. But his recent play remains frustrating. He had a strong third where his jumper got going (10 points in the quarter), but then couldn’t buy a basket from the perimeter in the fourth. Instead of trying to get to the basket, he camped out meekly on the perimeter. 14 points and 1 board in 33 minutes. Outside of a brief verbal skirmish with Chandler, KP was missing the mental toughness we needed tonight.

THE YING AND YANG OF DERRICK ROSE: Our star point guard had another strong offensive outing with 26 points. But herein lies the problem — he was way too ball dominant in the fourth. The Knicks failed to score over the last two minutes AND Rose left¬†Booker open for the game-winning three. As much as I enjoy Rose slashing to the rim for breathtaking layups, his defensive lapses and failure to execute team plays in crunch time has hurt this team. As a point guard, you have to re-evaluate your game when Melo has more assists than you.

BACKCOURT DESTRUCTION: Ironically, it wasn’t a barrage of three-pointers that killed the Knicks. New York won that battle by hitting 11 treys to Phoenix’s 9. The major problem was our guards in general couldn’t defend Booker nor Eric Bledsoe anywhere on the court. They combined for 49 points on way too many open shots.

ORIGINAL LINEUP, SAME ISSUES: With Joakim Noah’s return, the Knicks went to the season’s original starting lineup of Noah-KP-Melo-Lee-Rose. Noah did manage to grab 15 boards¬†but was held scoreless over 20 minutes.

This loss drops New York to 11th in the Eastern Conference. On Monday, we’re back on TNT to face the Pacers.

Knicks Falter in OT, Lose to Suns 113-111

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

There was so much optimism coming into this game. We had a real chance to be 3-0 on this road trip headed into a difficult game on Thursday against Golden State. So what did the Knicks do? They played lethargic for most the game, get the lead, then choked away a 6-point cushion that results in a BS overtime loss.

There will be a strong desire to point fingers at the glaring culprits (Melo’s shooting and Jennings’ defense), but this loss goes deeper than that.

WAITING TOO LONG TO CARE: The Suns destroyed us in transition, holding a 33-8 edge in fast break points. Simply put, the Knicks just weren’t getting back on defense. In the second and third quarters, the Knicks went down by as much as 14. It wasn’t until the bench combination of Baker-Holiday-O’Quinn-Thomas-KP that New York got their offense together. You can credit a flagrant 1 committed by Marquese Chriss late in the third on Porzingis for finally getting the Knicks fired up.

BAKER OVERSTAYS HIS WELCOME: With Derrick Rose leaving in the first with back spasms and Jennings (3 points, 1-6) not playing well, Coach Hornacek turned to Ron Baker early in the fourth. The moved paid off immediately as the Suns racked up fouls and went into the penalty at the 9:18 mark.

A 19-4 run powered by Kristaps¬†Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn got New York a 95-91 lead. Then Baker showed his rookie decision-making. He blew a layup, made a bad pass for a turnover, and made an ill-advised one on one move to the basket. By the time he was pulled at the 1:40 mark, the game was tied.

MELO AND JENNINGS: I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed with these two. Melo was a horrific 3/15 (13 points). We saw the worst of Melo from airballs to getting stuffed at the rim by a guard in Devin Booker. With Jennings, he was a virtual turnstile on defense, allowing Bledsoe (31 points) to get to the rim at will. This resulted in KP fouling out and Bledsoe hitting the go-ahead OT jumper that sealed it.

KP and O’QUINN COULDN’T DO IT ALONE: These two nearly won the game. Porzingis had one of his best games ¬†— 34 points, 8 boards, 3 steals and 3 blocks. O’Quinn added 22 points and 14 boards. A key mistake from Hornacek was pulling Kyle in the fourth to get Melo back in during crunch time. That allowed Tyson Chandler (13 points, 23 rebounds) to crash the boards for second chance opportunities.

Let this be the game that’s a sobering reminder that we have a lot of work ahead. A good team has no business going life and death with the Phoenix Suns.

[Video] Knicks Hold Off Suns in OT, Extend Winning Streak to Five Games

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The Knicks¬†blew an early 14-point first half lead, but showed the¬†poise and grit that was missing from the first two¬†months of the season to battle back and defeat the Phoenix Suns in overtime, 98-96. It wasn’t pretty and the defensive switching made this one harder than it needed to be, but the squad got the job done despite Melo working on fumes and refs making suspect calls in key moments.

FAST START AND SLACKING: Melo came out strong with 13 points in the opening 12 minutes to give New York a 28-21 lead. They went up by as much as 14 in the second quarter, but bad defense allowed the Suns to pull within four at one point. The Knicks had to settle for a nine-point halftime lead, 52-43, after Goran Dragic hit a three at the buzzer.

WHEN THE PROBLEMS STARTED: The Knicks¬†took a 75-68 lead into the fourth, but Coach Woodson went with the lineup of Toure Murry, Tim Hardaway¬†Jr., JR Smith, K-Mart and Amar’e¬†Stoudemire. Murry¬†uncharacteristically took back to back bad shots and Stat was continually expoited¬†by Leandro Barbosa’s¬†(21 points off the bench) drives to the rim. The lead was erased and Melo was forced to come back at the 9:03 mark, giving him little rest after already working hard to nab over 10 rebounds.

TIC FOR TAC: Even with Melo¬†back in, the ball movement struggled and the teams traded baskets before NY turnovers and horrible help defense allowed for a¬†Dragic¬†open layup¬†and a 88-83 deficit. The Knicks¬†looked dead in the water, but Woody made a key substitution of Andrea Bargnani, who played solid interior man to man defense once paired with Martin. Unfortunately, Melo’s¬†legs were gone on his jumper and he couldn’t deliver a dagger to knock out the Suns, including a missed wide-open mid-range shot. Nonetheless, he made one of the game’s most important plays in driving and kicking out to an open Felton who swished a three-pointer to put the Knicks up 92-90.

FINAL CHANCES: Now with the lead, Melo had to take a shot that would leave roughly 10 seconds on the clock. He was clearly fouled on the arm going up for a jumper, but the refs either missed it or decided to swallow their whistles (Melo had been jawing with the refs earlier, including a brief face to face that almost earned him a technical). Melo was furious and had to be calmed by Woody in the huddle.

Barbosa went for a drive and appeared to have been tied up successfully by Martin for a jump ball. However, the refs deemed this one a foul, and Barbosa hit two foul shots to send the game into overtime after JR missed good inbounds fadeaway (ironically, the same shot that beat the Suns in regulation last season).

MELO GRINDS IT OUT: Melo¬†scored four of the team’s six overtime points to put this one away. One was a nice alley-oop from K-Mart, and the other a tough fadeaway¬†in the post over Gerald Green, who had been giving Melo¬†a tough time all night. The Suns couldn’t convert on open threes. K-Mart got two crucial stops on Dragic¬†at the rim despite being switched off and having to cover him from the perimeter both times.

Although Melo¬†didn’t shoot the ball well in the second half (9/24 overall), he found other ways to lift his team with his rebounding (16) and assists (4). K-Mart was huge on the defensive end¬†in addition to several monster putbacks, contributing 8 points and 9 rebounds. And despite being torched at times by Dragic (28 points), Felton had his own moments with 19 points.

BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS…FOR NOW: This win put the Knicks¬†ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for the final playoff spot in the East. If the Knicks hope to keep it that way, it’ll be important for Tyson Chandler to make his return tonight against the Bobcats¬†since most of the starters will be dead tired.

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